BPIF Outlook Survey reports 'disappointing' spring

More than a third of printers have secured additional work due to the Olympics while a quarter won extra work due to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, according to the BPIF's latest outlook survey.

The jobs secured ranged from small-scale local patriotic work for the Jubilee to considerable run-length special edition work for food and retail clients and contracts for Olympics organiser LOCOG and the British Olympics Association (BOA).

However, other respondents felt that trade had worsened as a results of the Queen’s Jubilee and that the Olympics would prove to be a distraction to employees and clients and cause logistical issues to business.

The survey of 107 printers found trading conditions overall in quarter two to be "disappointing" as 36% of firms said they had encountered an unexpected drop in order levels compared to 26% that found orders to have increased and 38% who said there had been no change.

Overcapacity had improved slightly, with 58% of companies working at above 80% of capacity compared to 51% in the first quarter, however, the proportion of printers producing less than 50% of their capability showed no improvement at 3%.

Competitors pricing below cost was by far the most frequently cited issue for survey respondents with 85% selecting it as one of their top three business concerns, up from 73% for the first three months of the year. Late payments were the second ranking concern at 31%, while survival of major customers was selected by 28% of respondents as one of their top three business concerns.

Employment levels held up despite the weaker trading conditions and ongoing overcapacity while exports remained steady despite the weaker pound. Access to finance remained difficult with 80% reporting no change in conditions.

Printers were optimistic in their predictions for trading conditions in the third quarter of the year, normally a busier period for the industry, with 22% expecting demand to pick up and 70% expecting it to remain unchanged.

BPIF chief executive Kathy Woodward said: "Clearly confidence remains fragile in a tough trading climate, with price-cutting by competitors and late payment problems uppermost in the minds of many printing firms."

One encouraging sign from those surveyed was that the number expecting to invest in new plant and machinery remained high at 85%, compared with 89% last quarter. However, access to finance remains a concern with 80% reporting no change in the past 12 months.

Woodward said: "It is interesting to see that there is still an appetite to invest in new kit - it seems that printers are saying we need to be more productive in these difficult times."

She added that it was "encouraging" to see export levels holding up and said she would urge all printers "to actively seek new markets overseas".

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